From the detection of its first case of HIV infection in 1991, Cambodia has faced rapidly increasing HIV/AIDS incidence and prevalence rates. HIV is the fastest growing epidemic in Asia. This is partly due to the rise of the sex tourism industry in Cambodia, given the cheap and easy access to prostitutes compared to Thailand, one of the world’s most notorious sex tourism destinations. At the same time, Cambodia ranks the lowest in gender equality in Southeast Asia, according to the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index. Women with HIV/AIDS are doubly discriminated in society, barring them from access to the formal labour markets.

Kate Larsen, who currently works as an EU Advocate in the Women’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch and a Lensational Advisor, visited an HIV “ghetto” in Phnom Penh, Cambodia back in 2012, to support living wage through ethical trade. There, she met and befriended Thearith Soun, a 55 year seamstress with HIV who had lost her husband to HIV. She was barely surviving with a few hand crafting orders although her tailoring skills are better than that. She started a micro retail business, Jasmine Villa, with her daughter, Meimei. Meimei is very interested in photography as she would like to take pictures for the products for online sales. Therefore, Lensational visited Thearith’s business in October 2015 and trained the family in photography. Vince Mo and Alexandra Simons are two professional photographers who gave them specific training in portrait photography and product photography.

We will be providing continuous training to Meimei via Skype on product photography, as well as support for her to start her online shop. We are also looking to connect with more Cambodian organisations and host an exhibition in Cambodia to raise awareness on HIV/AIDS locally.

Contact Programme Manager: Bonnie Chiu (

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